BBC South East apologises for £28,000 contempt blunder

BBC South East apologises for £28,000 contempt blunder
BBC South East News premises in Tunbridge Wells

The BBC was hit with a £28,000 fine for contempt of court after the broadcaster mistakenly recorded and then broadcast part of a court case.

About 500,000 people saw the six seconds of footage, which was recorded from online proceedings brought by environmental campaigner Sarah Finch against Surrey County Council’s decision to allow the extension of an oil well six miles from her home in Redhill, Surrey.

Since March last year many court hearings have been conducted online as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, broadcasting or publishing of any still or moving images from court proceedings is prohibited by both the 1925 Criminal Justice Act and legislation introduced by the 2020 Coronavirus Act.

It has always been illegal for the media to photograph or record court proceedings in England and Wales.

In a High Court ruling on Wednesday [February 3], Lady Justice Andrews and Mr Justice Warby said there was ‘no simple or coherent explanation’ for what happened and that the contempt ‘beggars belief’.

But a BBC spokesperson said: “We have apologised unreservedly for the mistakes that led to these online court proceedings being recorded and broadcast and have taken extensive action to prevent them from happening again.”  

However, when asked by the Times if coverage of the contempt of court case was covered on BBC South East Today, he said it was not but the case was covered on BBC online.

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